Astronauts might be able to grow plants on the moon, thanks to a few Earth microbes

Microbes could help unlock vital nutrients in lunar soil to one day help farms sustain astronaut crews on the moon, a new study reports.

Previous research found that lunar soil possesses a number of elements vital for plant growth. This has raised hopes that greenhouse farms on the moon could make use of local resources to help lunar bases sustain life instead of astronauts having to lug huge amounts of soil or bulky hydroponic systems from Earth.

"The advantage of growing plants on the moon is not limited to providing food for the astronauts who live in the lunar base," study lead author Yitong Xia of China Agricultural University in Beijing told "It could also help to refresh the air by providing oxygen, purify water, and even provide emotional comfort."

However, prior experiments have also shown that lunar soil is bad at hosting crops. Not only does it lack carbon and nitrogen compounds that are necessary for plant growth, but what vital elements it does have, such as phosphorus, are mostly locked within insoluble compounds that plants find difficult to absorb.


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